Puppy Nipping

A dog feels the world through his mouth. When a dog is a pup, it has a physical need to teeth & when you have a teething pup, you have a nipping pup – Ouch!! When puppies are in their litter, they learn how to “inhibit their bite”. Canine siblings will let one another know if they are nipping too hard or mouthing too much. A pup’s mother will do the same. She will gently yet firmly reprimand her pups in a quick vocal sound. She does this without harming him or her.

It is your responsibility as an owner to replace the littermates & teach your pup how to have a “soft mouth”. Puppy play biting with one another is the means by which a dog develops “bite inhibition”. It is those puppies that do not bite at all, that generally end up having some sort of mouthing problem later in life.

Bite inhibition training requires the owner to step in & take action. If you are consistent you will see results over time. Do not expect the impossible. Your puppy will NOT stop mouthing or nipping in 1-2 weeks. After all, he is a puppy! As you will see, the program is designed in a series of stages. Your goal should be to teach your pup that Biting is an unacceptable behavior & will not be tolerated at any time.

The following bite inhibition exercises should be carried out in a gradual manner, puppy biting behavior should NOT be eradicated all at one, otherwise your puppy will NOT LEARN to inhibit the FORCE of his bite. By the same token, the training for bite inhibition needs to be carried out in a manner that is perceived by your dog as natural & instinctual

3 steps to getting “Buddy” to keep his mouth off of you:



A) This means that you FIRST want to teach your pup that the force behind mouthing & biting are not allowed. You should NOT expect to eliminate mouthing/nipping at this stage whatsoever! Any type of pressure that your pup puts on you with his mouth should be interpreted as “painful”. You want to TRICK your pup into thinking that he is really hurting when he mouthes/nips you. For example, if you pet your pup, & he mouths/nips you, you are going to give out a “yelp” (this sound is equivalent to when you accidentally step on your dog’s foot). IF your pup does not nip … you are going to praise him like crazy! The intensity of your “yelp” should be customized accordingly to your pup’s personality. Ie: A quiet “yelp” for sensitive / submissive dogs. A louder “yelp” for a feisty dog.

Please note: Although this technique is extracted from canine socialization, and it is effective 90% of the time, there are some pups that react with more zest than ever. If this is the case with your pup, ask the trainer for plan B.

Best rule of thumb:

Stop playing with your dog the moment he/she puts his mouth on you. Don’t use your hands as a means of play. In other words – Disengage.

B) Another approach is the “time out”. When your pup mouths or nips you with any type of “force”, you should walk away from him & ignore him for a few minutes. Be Sure to do these “time outs” followed by play time.

  • Do not put your dog into his crate for a time out. His crate should never be used as a place punishment. You want him to love his crate! If you put him in it for “misbehaving”, he will not.
  • When you are ignoring him, you can not leave him alone in a room unattended. Make sure that although you are giving him a time out, you peak out the corner of your eye to make sure he is not getting into anything.

C) Another great way to inhibit the force of your pup’s nips are to introduce a word/command, that will mean be softer. Take a treat & hold it in front of your pup. When he goes for it softly, say “good gentle!” and give it to him. His reward for being soft with his mouth is the treat. If he takes it with force, do not give it to him and ignore his rough persistence. He will only get it when he is soft. Eventually, you will be able to say “gentle” when he is just about to get rough with his mouth.


Now that you have conquered the force of the bite (nip) in step 1, you will want to teach your pup that occasional mouthing IS permitted at this stage; however, it is not allowed with frequency. You will cut down on the number of times your pup nips.

A) It is important and helpful that you give your puppy a warning that a verbal “yelp” is about to happen. For instance, if your pup is getting a tad bit mouthy, you will want to begin at this point of training by giving a warning of “gentle”. Remember, this is what you trained your pup with from step 1. If the mouthing continues after you give the warning, yelp. “

Ask yourself these questions first:
  • Did I repeatedly practice what the word gentle means from step 1? IF you did great, if you did not, then do not go to this step 2 because your puppy doesn’t know what the word means.
  • Where are my hands? Are they unconsciously in my pup’s mouth to act as a pacifier? Watch your hands. If that is where they are, then go back to step 1. It would be unfair to do step 2 if you are giving your puppy mixed signals.

At this point in the training, if your puppy mouths or nips, he will not get a warning. He will receive a yelp followed by an explosive yet fairly quiet knock it off. The key here is to NOT yell. An owner that resorts to yelling is getting no where. You will either scare your dog or teach him that you are lower ranking – It is the lower ranking dogs in dog packs that scream (yell).


Use a low scary voice for reprimanding & keep it short.


A) The “tongue depressor approach”

This is used in the wild by wolves as well as by mother dogs to her litter of puppies. It creates a negative association with mouthing/nipping. Simply take your pointer finger and place it all the way in the back of your dog’s tongue when they mouth/nip. This creates a gagging feeling and the nipping slowly subsides. Dogs do this by using their nose as the depressor. (Remember this feeling when you went to the doctor as a little kid? Yuck!

B) Eliminate “rough housing” games

  • Tug –o-war
  • Head tossing/slapping

These and ones similar to them provoke a puppy and indirectly teach him to fit with the owner. Not a good idea. (There are isolated situations that do call for playing these games, but it is not common).

C) Jerky hand movements cause pups to mouth/nip.

Slow down when around your dog. Excitement breeds excitement. Do not rationalize of make excuses for why your pup is mouthing. IN the dog world, nipping is swiftly yet humanely reprimanded.


I never will give a set time. Dogs are living beings, and they all learn at different passes. In addition, the dog : owner team is a big determining factor. A dog that has the potential to stop nipping but has an owner that does NOT take time for him will not learn very fast where to keep its mouth. Work as a team, be your dog’s best friend, be his teacher, mentor and cheerleader and he will be fine!

  • Work in the steps provided. Do NOT rush!
  • Be consistent, fun, yet firm when needed.
  • Use natural canine social behaviors.
  • Buy tons of Kongs and stuff them!
  • Buy other indestructible toys that you can stuff.
  • Refer to the chewing handout for additional tips.